City considers building a replica gate for Edmonton's Chinatown

The gate, a prominent feature of Chinatown since 1987, was built to symbolize the relationship between Edmonton and its sister city of Harbin, China.

Original Harbin Gate, taken down for LRT construction, has structural problems

The Harbin Gate as it appeared before crews began dismantling the structure. (Chinese Benevolent Association)

The City of Edmonton is considering replicating Chinatown's Harbin Gate instead of resurrecting the old one, which is sitting in a storage facility in Cromdale.

The gate had been a prominent feature of Chinatown since 1987, located on 102nd Avenue just east of 97th Street. It was built to symbolize the relationship between Edmonton and Harbin, its sister city in China, but was taken down to make room for Valley Line LRT construction.

When the gate came down in November 2017, there was talk of moving it to a new location after LRT construction was complete.

But the design team from Harbin has since recommended the structure be replicated, said David Holdsworth, a senior planner with the city.

The Harbin Gate was removed to make room for LRT construction. (Trevor Wilson/CBC)

"When it came down, we realized there were some structural issues if we were to put it back," said Holdsworth.

The gate is rusting and would require significant maintenance work, he said. "It was determined that it would probably be easier to replicate it than replace it or rebuild it."

While preliminary concept designs have been drafted, the decision to replicate the gate has not been finalized. Community members had a chance to see the concepts Sunday, at a Lunar New Year celebration hosted by the Chinese Benevolent Association.

A preliminary concept for a replica. The decision on whether to replicate the original Harbin Gate has not been finalized. (City of Edmonton)

The gate would be wider than the original, Holdsworth said, as it will have to stretch across five lanes of traffic at its new location on 97th Street and 101A Avenue.

"It's basically to commemorate where the original Chinatown used to be," he said. "When Canada Place got built, there were a whole lot of businesses in there, which was the original Chinatown, so they got displaced."

The extra surface area on the gate would be decorated with imagery from Edmonton and Harbin, such as the cities' official flowers.

The earliest the gate would be in place at the new location is October 2020.

If the Harbin Gate gets replicated, the original likely won't end up in a landfill. Holdsworth said it would be incorporated into a different location.